My Adventures at the Mariners’ Museum

In addition to coursework and research, William and Mary students are expected to complete an assistantship every year. Many of these take the form of teaching, but there are also opportunities to work in museums, archives, publications, and other places. Given my curatorial background, I’ve been working two days a week at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News. Today, I’ll talk about some of the projects I worked on there.

Compared to my job at Roswell, my position at the Mariners’ was low-key because I wasn’t in charge of the department and was able to spend all of my time with the collection. I worked with the map collection, which contains about 1400 objects spanning from the sixteenth into the twentieth centuries. The maps represent a small facet of a much larger object collection, but there was more than enough material to keep me busy.

During the fall, I primarily worked on inventorying the objects to make sure the locations in the computer database corresponded with what I actually found in the drawers. Once I completed that, I worked on rehousing maps in newer, more archivally appropriate folders, choosing maps to be photographed for the database, and cataloging maps found in the collection, among other things.
Example of the kind of map you might see in my exhibition next year.

I spent most of my time working on an exhibition proposal, Changing World Views: World Maps from the Mariners’ Museum. Here’s the introduction I wrote for it:

When it comes to maps, representations of the world are among the most recognizable, whether we hang them in classrooms, see them on the evening news, or look them up online. Yet world maps are not just visual renderings of continents. From allegorical illustrations to the outlines of political borders, the details we see on maps can tell us a lot about their creators’ expectations and interests. Changing World Views explores how world maps express political and social content while showcasing various examples from the Mariners’ Museum collection.

This exhibition won’t open until 2020, but since my internship just ended, I needed to present as complete a package of a show as possible. In addition to including an illustrated checklist and exhibition text, then, I provided measurements for the works, recommended mat and frame sizes, and completed a layout of the show for the proposed space, Gallery Six. Since I’ll be living in Williamsburg for the foreseeable future, I also offered to help out when it comes time to put the show together.

Overall, I enjoyed my time here, as it was a good transition space. Having spent almost a decade working museums, it was nice to still have a connection to that environment as I readjusted to being a student again. It’ll also be good to expand my exhibition experience beyond the Roswell Museum, as the vast majority of the shows I curated were staged there.

All that said, however, I’m ultimately here to expand and grow my skill set, so I’ll look forward to having the opportunity to try out a new position next year.

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